Leonard Cohen said, “There’s a crack in everything — that’s where the light gets in.” The enmeshed, conflicted relationship between hope and despair, between mourning and looking forward, is at the heart of the stunning work from Mahmoud Sabri. Today, Sotheby’s is auctioning off one of the Iraqi artist’s most famous pieces  — Al Mawt Al-Tafl (The Death of A Child). In this video, they go behind the life and the art of Sabri.

“An outspoken dissident of Iraq’s government in the 1950s, Mahmoud Sabri was forced into exile. He studied in Moscow from 1959 – 1963, where he was influenced by the Soviet Realist style – which used an idealized, realistic approach,” the video explains. “The four years he spent in Moscow are considered his most important period. Many sketches of this painting exist from that period, which testify to the importance with which he treated the work. In this episode of Anatomy of an Artwork, discover the pain, anger, and grief in his work, Al Mawt Al-Tafl (The Death of a Child), which is a highlight of our upcoming sale, 20th Century Art / Middle East (30 April | London).”

You can see the whole video here:

Drawing inspiration from Marxist philosophy, propaganda posters, and more, Mahmoud Sabri tackled the most complex, heartwrenching of themes — and this video shows his work at its most powerful.